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Heat stress intensification in the Mediterranean climate change hotspot

junio 16, 2007

2003 heat wave

 

Heat stress intensification in the Mediterranean climate change hotspot

Noah S. Diffenbaugh

Purdue Climate Change Research Center and Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Jeremy S. Pal

Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy

Filippo Giorgi

Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy

Xuejie Gao

Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy

Abstract

We find that elevated greenhouse gas concentrations dramatically increase heat stress risk in the Mediterranean region, with the occurrence of hot extremes increasing by 200 to 500% throughout the region. This heat stress intensification is due to preferential warming of the hot tail of the daily temperature distribution, with 95th percentile maximum and minimum temperature magnitude increasing more than 75th percentile magnitude. This preferential warming of the hot tail is dictated in large part by a surface moisture feedback, with areas of greatest warm-season drying showing the greatest increases in hot temperature extremes. Fine-scale topographic and humidity effects help to further dictate the spatial variability of the heat stress response, with increases in dangerous Heat Index magnified in coastal areas. Further, emissions deceleration substantially mitigates heat stress intensification throughout the Mediterranean region, implying that emissions reductions could reduce the risk of increased heat stress in the coming decades.

Received 13 March 2007; accepted 14 May 2007; published 15 June 2007.

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